After 151 days, the City has finally provided the Tourism Director contract. Not under our February 27, 2017 request, but as part of a request filed on July 21, 2017, the day after the Attorney General opinion was received. This FOIA request was responded to in a timely manner, our thanks to the Nauvoo City FOIA Officer. Our earlier request simply asked for copies of the current contract for the Tourism Director and all other departments of the City, the July 21 request was narrowed to information about the Hotel Motel Board. (See contracts for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
It was our contention in earlier conversations directly with the Mayor that this contract was not legal, both in how it was awarded, how it was executed, and how it was being implemented. Our review of the actual contracts confirms that belief.
Since every copy of the contract we received was signed only by the “Hotel/Motel Tax Board Chair”, with no City Council review and approval, no review in a City Council Meeting, and no signature from the Mayor (or any elected official), they are invalid. Further, all payments made related to these contracts would then be improper.
The initial discussions on hiring of a Tourism Director, as referenced in the Hotel Motel Meeting Minutes in 2012, made reference to requesting applications from qualified parties. There was no solicitation of bids, and no competitive bid review completed. We are still waiting on the Meeting Minutes which were withheld without cause to determine the actual process followed, and whether those with a conflict of interest in this selection process recused themselves. This may require legal remedy since the most recent communication we received from the Mayor stated that these were “executive sessions.” We have requested the Mayor review these minutes to determine what information is privileged and provide us with the balance. We have not received this information. Subsequent awards of this contract have not included any bidding process as required by state municipal code (65 ILCS 5/8).
Our July 21, 2017 request also asked that copies of evaluations and reviews related to this agreement be provided. The response from the City states: “We have conducted a search of records and there are no ’employment reviews’ for the Tourism Director from 2012 – present.” This is in spite of the contract’s requirement that “The Hotel/Motel Tax Board will evaluate Orth’s services monthly and request that any deficiencies be corrected.” and that her contract could be renewed “provided the contractor receives consistently favorable monthly evaluations.”
The Compensation portion of these agreements is sure to raise eyebrows. Orth receives a bonus equal to 50% of the increase in tax dollars received by the Hotel/Motel Tax Board over the three year running average of collections. This bonus is paid regardless of whether there was any correlation between her efforts and the increase, since the bonus payment is not connected to any review process. As you can see in the chart below, FY2016 was a definite setback for the Hotel Motel Board, with the Tourism Director salary and bonus increase exceeding the very limited increase in tax collected (a nearly $7,000 increase in salary for an $800 increase in tax). As a side note, with 76% of the Tax paid to one individual, plus the costs associated with rent, utilities, internet and phone, very little remains for advertising and promotion.
We have previously provided a summary of the challenges with the contention that this position can legally be considered a contractor, and it is unlikely the review currently underway by the IRS will support the contention that Kim Orth is a “contractor”. These documents will certainly create additional issues in that official review.
Additional articles will be provided once our review of the financial documents provided in this FOIA request are completed, and a determination of next steps has been made.